Poe’s Raven

So the only American football named after a literary work has won the Superbowl. The Baltimore Ravens are named after The Raven, a poem by Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849), who lived for some time in Baltimore. He was born in Boston, though.

The most famous man of letters from Baltimore was the journalist HL Mencken (1880-1956). His rambunctious style was very different from the brooding mystery and romance of Poe.

The Raven is a haunting poem, filled with the same dread and foreboding as The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.  Like the dead albatross of the Ancient Mariner, the raven is deeply disturbing.  Listen to James Earl Jones read The Raven.  You can feel the darkness and mystery.

The raven is a large black crow, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, but the word has other meanings too.  “Raven” can also be used as a verb to mean “plunder” or “rampage” – as in “The Nazi blitzkrieg ravened across the borders of Poland” — or “feed hungrily or greedily”.  Hence the adjective “ravenous”, which means being extremely hungry or famished.